Bachelor of Applied Science in Biomedical Science (First Class Honours and University Medal), 1997
Senior Staff Scientist, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, UK
UTS Alumni Award for Excellence 2017 - Faculty of Science
Dr Louise van der Weyden is globally recognised for her cancer research, though she eschews the limelight, preferring to work behind the scenes in a lab.
“Cancer is a devastating disease and when you see the suffering these patients and their family members go through, it drives you to keep on going, to make a breakthrough that could be translated to the clinic,” she says.
The research laboratory was not her first choice of ‘office’. Her first job was examining patients’ specimens as a trainee hospital scientist in the Cytology Department at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital.
Seeing more and more people defeating cancer due to better treatments and knowing that in some small way I have helped contribute – that’s what unquestionably makes it all worth it.
Louise remains eternally grateful to UTS Associate Professor Kevin Broady who, in her third year, suggested she switch her focus to research and encouraged her participation in a career-defining student research project during the summer break.
“It was like introducing a pig to mud,” she says. “Research and me – we are a match made in heaven. I loved it so much I went on to do an honours year at UTS with Professor Broady, investigating the venom of the common death adder.”
It wasn’t the only match made during her degree. During her final year at UTS, she met her future husband David Adams while lunching over a microscope and went on to share the Haematology Prize with him.
Now in her lab at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, Louise and her team have made several important discoveries, including advances in using animal models of cancer and the identification of a new pathway regulating immune control of metastasis – the number one cause of death for cancer patients.
Her recent paper in the prestigious science journal Nature explains the role the human body can play in controlling tumour growth, and how the loss of a gene called ‘Spns2’ can cause a reduction in tumour colonies.
“Each discovery, no matter how small it may seem, is an important piece that could help solve the cancer puzzle. Seeing more and more people defeating cancer due to better treatments and knowing that in some small way I have helped contribute – that’s what unquestionably makes it all worth it.”